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Santiago Espinal hits 2-run homer, Reds hold on to beat Cubs 5-4 | The National Sport

CHICAGO (AP) — Santiago Espinal hit a two-run homer while pinch-hitting in the seventh inning and the Cincinnati Reds held on to beat the Chicago Cubs 5-4 on Friday.

Espinal, who entered just .195, struck out Will Benson with zero outs and Jonathan India on first after a walk. He sent Drew Smyly’s first pitch into the left-center stands at Wrigley Field for his third homer, giving Cincinnati its first lead at 4-3.

“I’m ready, I’m staying ready,” Espinal said. “It was a hinged curve right in the middle. I was just trying to be aggressive, put something in the zone and I did it.”

Tyler Stephenson had two hits and drove in a run for the Reds, who ended a two-game skid.

Nick Martini added an RBI and TJ Friedl singled in an insurance run in the ninth. The Reds needed him.

Cincinnati closer Alexis Diaz entered the bottom of the ninth with a 5-3 lead. Pete Crow-Armstrong singled to lead off, then Diaz walked Michael Busch.

Crow-Armstrong scored on Seiya Suzuki’s double into the left field corner with one out. But Nick Madrigal, who reached on a force out, was thrown out on a great catch by shortstop Elly De La Cruz after left fielder Jacob Hurtubise quickly fielded the ball and struck De La Cruz out cutting.

“That’s the game right there,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Hit the man and when it’s Elly we want to take the ball to him. We know what kind of arm he has. Everyone does.”

Cody Bellinger flied out to right to end it and Diaz got his 11th save. The Reds (25-32) won for the fifth time in seven games.

Ian Happ hit a two-run homer and walked the bases loaded for three RBIs, but the Cubs lost their third straight and eighth in nine to fall two games below .500 (28-30).

Fernando Cruz (2-5), the first of four Reds relievers, threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Smyly (2-3) took the loss in relief of starter Javier Assad. The lefty walked three in 1 1/3 innings.

“There are moments throughout the game that count,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “When you add it all up, they did a little bit more than we did today.”

Counsell was ejected in the bottom of the evening.

With runners on first and second and no outs, Madrigal hit to Patrick Wisdom. It was unclear whether Diaz’s inside pitch was looking at Madrigal’s hand or his bat handle. Plate umpire Brennan Miller ruled a foul ball and Counsell argued.

“Nick made a clear sign that he was hit and (Miller) said he hit the bat,” Counsell said.

IT FOLLOWS

The Reds sent out RHP Hunter Green (3-2, 3.06) against LHP Justin Steele (0-2, 4.45) on Saturday. Green has made three straight quality starts, allowing five runs in 21 1/3 innings. Steele threw seven scoreless innings in a no-decision at Milwaukee on Monday.


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